Ah, summer. I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to sunshine, cold beer, barbecues and, perhaps, a jolly over to Kefalonia if this pandemic pain-in-the-arse eases up in time. One other thing to note this season is the publication of new UK legislation which mirrors that in the EU and signals the demise of certain lamp technologies. Read on to find out what’s going to disappear between now and the end of 2023…


It should be said that these lamps won’t vanish from the shop shelves overnight, and stores or manufacturers with existing inventories will be able to continue flogging their wares until their backlog of stock is exhausted. After that, the following will appear in-store no more despite some of these models still being in widespread use at the time of writing. Also, for the dates given, a one-month transition allowance is expected. Let’s look at what’s on the chopping block and what you can do to keep the lights on if you're still relying on older lighting technologies…


12V Halogen reflector lamps (MR16/GU5.3, MR11/GU4)
No new stock entering the supply chain from 1st October 2021.

MR1611


These damnable things are still in widespread use, especially in the MR16 form-factor. Popular from the 1990s until the GU10 fitting took over at the end of the noughties, although still widely sold until only about five years ago, many downlight installations use these bi-pin 12V monstrosities. Of course, a driver (transformer) is used to get the mains voltage down to 12V and although LED equivalent lamps are available, it is often the case that a halogen driver won’t play nice with a retrofitted LED lamp resulting in flickering, premature lamp failure or it simply not lighting at all. Many halogen drivers require a load of 10-20 Watts in order to operate, and LED lamps will get nowhere near that because… well… that’s the point. Usually, the best remedy is to either rip out and replace with new GU10 downlights or, if you really don’t want to change the fitting, replace the halogen driver for LED versions so the LED MR16 lamp can be installed as nature intended. Most installations use a single driver per lamp with that driver being accessible through the downlight hole, however some installations may have a driver powering several lamps and, if the installer was a prick, it may have been plasterboarded over. I remember looking over someone’s extension where the lights were all driven from a fat transformer somewhere, but where the bloody builder had stashed it was anyone’s guess.

The fact is nobody needs to be burning 20-50W per downlight anymore. You can get the same quality of light from a good LED lamp at a tenth of the energy. There’s a good chance that if you have MR16 downlights, they’ve been in for some time and are probably tarnished from the waste heat. Maybe they’re also rusty or paint-flecked? Have someone look into their conversion either to 12V LED or to GU10 LED and besides the refreshed look, the work will probably pay for itself within three years through the energy saved and reduced maintenance. There's more to be said on savings later.

 

Linear R7s lamps over 2700 lumens
No new stock entering the supply chain from 1st October 2021.

R7s


This form factor comes in the 78mm and 118mm lamp lengths and was popular again from the 1990s into the 2000s in floor standing uplights and some wall lights. Its main market was in exterior floodlights, especially in its brighter (but energy-gobbling) form. It’s these higher-lumen models which are being discontinued which is a little surprising as I’d have thought those who really need powerful floodlights would have a harder time changing out to LED which, for the equivalent light output, tend to come in larger housings that can be rather unwieldly. It seems to me that it would have been better to target the lower lumen output examples as retrofit LED R7s lamps are readily available but tend to be not as bright which suits them more for the floor lamp and wall light applications and less so for floodlighting large spaces. The LED retrofit models also tend to be rather more bulky and not dimmer compatible which may preclude their installation into some luminaires. It may be time to evaluate if that floor lamp or those wall lights are still in vogue or require refreshing and to look into switching to a more energy efficient exterior light based on LED or a discharge lighting solution.

 

Self-ballasted compact fluorescent lamps
No new stock entering the supply chain from 1st October 2021.

SB


I’ve wibbled on about these before, a technology that first came to the masses in 1983 with the Philips SL-18 and which quickly became the whipping boy of the likes of Jeremy Clarkson and the Daily Fail whose blinkered opinions and ‘change is bad’ attitudes were both as boring as they were predictable. Granted, early examples had long warm-up times, but the technology improved and gave us all a tool-free way to change out our traditional 60W current-chomping Victorian technology for something that used a third of the energy and lasted a shitload longer. But really, there’s no place for the self-ballasted CFL lamp anymore, not when a LED lamp can give you as much light with no warm-up time for half the energy again. Just to be clear, this only applies to the self-ballasting lamps – those models you can insert into a standard lampholder such as B22d, E27, E14 etc. Fluorescent lamps with external ballasts such as PL lighting (G23, G24, 2D etc.) will remain available.

 

Even LED lamps aren’t exempt from the purge and ‘lower performing’ models are also being culled from 1st October. I don’t have any information on the cut-off for lumens per circuit Watt that makes the grade, but there’s obviously a tipping point somewhere where a LED lamp of a certain design may not be giving enough lumens for the power it’s consuming.

 

The following get a stay of execution for a couple more years but if you’re still reliant on these technologies, it may be time to plan for change…

 

T8 Linear fluorescent lamps (600mm / 1200mm / 1500mm)
No new stock entering the supply chain from 1st September 2023.

T8


The T8 format is being largely phased out completely in favour of better performing technology such as fluorescent T5 or LED. The 1800mm T8 tube was led out back and shot in the face along with its larger T12 siblings some time ago, although you can still find suppliers with limited stock if you look around. The fact is, if you have a T8 fitting, it may be old, the ballast may be inefficient and you’re better off replacing it with a T5 if fluorescent is still your thang. A 1.5 metre T5 tube runs at 36W (not including the ballast), while the equivalent T8 runs at 58W. You can retrofit LED tubes into a T8 fitting and some LED tubes work without you having to wire out the ballast, but wherever we’ve performed a conversion, we’ve removed the ballast and starter, disconnected one of the tombstones and simply wired the 230V input straight to the opposing tombstone via a fused 'starter'. That way, you can insert a 230V LED tube without any external components sucking up additional power. The only trick then is to label which tombstone is the live end and ensure the connection end of the LED lamp is inserted correctly.

 

Halogen G4/GY6.35 (12V) capsule lamps
No new stock entering the supply chain from 1st September 2023.

G4


Another halogen form-factor from yesteryear that fell out of favour in later life, these horrible little capsule lamps were commonly found in kitchen undercabinet lighting or in some feature ceiling luminaires. Again, a driver is required to drop the voltage and these lamps were superseded to a certain extent when the G9 fitting came into being as that was of a similar size and could run direct from 230V with no lumpy driver required. If you still have these lurking under your kitchen cabinets, you’ll already be well versed in replacing their short-arse life and swearing at their crappy connection which often loosens up when it heats up/cools down making for intermittent operation. Like the other 12V models, the driver often won’t power a LED replacement directly meaning it too needs to be changed out for a LED driver if you want to retain the fittings. G4 LED equivalents, at the time of writing, are often physically larger than the halogen counterparts they’re replacing and therefore don’t always fit in the fitting. The LED lamps are usually not dimmer compatible either. Still, why burn a 10W or 20W G4 lamp if a 2.5W LED can do the same job?

 

Halogen G9 (230V) capsule lamps
No new stock entering the supply chain from 1st September 2023.

G9


As mentioned previously, G9 took over from a lot of the G4’s duties, especially in feature ceiling lighting. Not needing a driver was a plus, but their life expectancy remains dismal. I recall two nursing homes I used to support who had allowed a builder to select and install bling lighting in their refurbished day rooms and the idiot went and put in something that looked pretty but used G9 lamps. With a lamp expectancy of just 1000 – 2000 hours, a commercial application which saw the lights on pretty much 24/7 meant every few days another bloody bulb would fail and they were forever forking out for new ones! Even in domestic situations, dickhead lighting designers would use the G9 in idiotic ways. I recently attended the home of a lady with limited mobility whose living room was in the dark despite two feature lights each with three G9 lamps. They had all blown of course, but to change them involved getting on a step and undoing two screws with an Allen (hex) key to remove each shade to change each lamp; an incredibly fiddly and impractical design where it was known regular maintenance was going to be required. But hey, it looks pretty, right? LED lamps are available in the G9 form-factor, although like the G4, they tend to be larger and may not fit in the physical shade. Dimmer compatible models are available but tend to be larger again to accommodate the additional electronics.

 

Speaking of dimmer compatibility…

Changing the lighting technology in your fitting may require more than just popping in a new LED equivalent lamp. As already stated, for 12V lamps the transformer may have to be changed for a LED driver and fluorescent to LED batten conversions may require (and certainly benefit from) the ballast and starter being taken out of circuit.

Even if it is just a straight lamp swap, many LED lights don’t play well with old dimmer switches whose output was designed for a certain technology and load range that your new lamp won’t conform to. Changing to a LED dimmer will be required if things don’t work as expected when the lamps have been swapped out. You may experience a poor dimming range, flickering, the lamp not lighting at all or buzzing noises from the lamp or switch if the technologies aren’t matching up.

 

Don’t panic!

Before you start worrying that you’re going to be buggered over because your specialist lighting equipment still requires the older technology, there are exemptions in the regulations for specialist lamps and applications. The kind of lighting we’re talking about here is for general use in room lighting, so something like the DDL 150W MR16 20V lamp will still be available for your projector as will the E14 R39 tungsten bulb for your lava lamp. Such examples have a specific function outside of general lighting and are therefore exempt from the legislation.

 

Don’t hoard!

When the death-knell was sounded for the 100W tungsten lamp a few years ago, the Daily Mail brigade started buying them in bulk so they would have enough to see them through what remained of their days spent retired, angry and constantly twitching the curtains looking for ways to find fault with their neighbours.

There’s a reason why these technologies are being phased out: - they’re shit. Some are just old and have been improved on over time, such as fluorescent T12 and T8 lamps being superseded by the more efficient T5. Others were arguably dumb to begin with like G4 lamps. Yeah, I guess they made for compact undercabinet lights, but they were never a great solution to anything. If you want to buy bad technology in bulk and continue throwing money at your electricity provider, well I guess that’s your call although I don’t understand it myself. A room outfitted with six 35W MR16 downlights is gobbling through 210W in total. If we assume that room is lit for an average of three hours a day, then that’s 630W of energy consumed daily or 229,950 Watts per year. At 15p per kilowatt hour, the ‘leccy bill comes to £34.49 per annum for lighting that one room. If you’re on top of the maintenance, chances are you’ll also have had to change each lamp maybe four times throughout the year based on a 2000-hour lifespan. 24 lamps at £1.20 each sees another £28.80 thrown at keeping this one room illuminated and you’re probably pig-sick by now of getting the step ladder out.

That same room changed to 3W LED lamps ought to see the same quality of light output, no maintenance required for years and only 18W consumed per hour or 6570W per year, a cost on the ‘leccy bill of just 99p per annum.

Less than a quid?! Why, it’s a no-brainer! You couldn’t get that kind of return if you put your money into a savings account and for the way the room is lit nobody would know any better. The costs of the conversion would be covered in two to three years, after that it’s all money in your pocket instead of to your energy provider.

 

Buy quality, buy once.

A big problem with LED lamps is them not living up to their long-life claims. Not all LED lamps are made equal, and we’ve seen some premature failures from surprising brands like Philips. Generally, the quality of LED lamps has greatly improved over recent years and, while my advice used to be to avoid supermarket marques, chances are you’ll get a decent lamp for the money from the likes of Sainsbury’s these days.

Don’t buy no-brand rubbish from sources such as Amazon and eBay. In fact, I wouldn’t buy LED lamps off the internet at all as it can be an expensive faff to send back anything that fails prematurely. If you buy from the high street, go for a brand or retailer you recognise and look at what the warranty is on the product as many LED lamps come with an extended two to five years. Keep the receipt so that any which fail in the warranty period can be exchanged.

Avoid anything too cheap as it’s likely corners will have been cut. Low quality components may reduce the operational life or omit stages in the circuitry leaving a lamp with a noticeable flicker or unpleasant glare.

The old halogen lamps all generally came with the same warm-white colour temperature somewhere around 2700-3000 Kelvin, but LEDs come in a wide range of outputs generally between 2700 and 6500K. If you want the same light output you’ve been used to, 2700-3000K is what you want to look for. If you want a cleaner look, say in a kitchen or bathroom, then go for something around 4000K which is considered a fresher ‘cool white’. For daylight white which you may want over a workbench or sewing machine, select a lamp nearer 6000K.

Non-dimmable LED lamps tend to be a little cheaper as they require fewer components in their construction, so if dimming isn’t likely to be needed now or in the future, maybe select such lamps over their dimmable counterparts.

 

One other thing…

The new legislation also encourages manufacturers to move away from making luminaires with non-replaceable parts such as control gear and LED modules that cannot be repaired or replaced where there isn’t a technical justification for such a design. I doubt many manufacturers will heed that, and most will simply say it has to be manufactured in that way to meet an IP rating. It’s annoying that it’s hard to buy a bulkhead or floodlight style luminaire these days without being able to insert an off-the-shelf lamp. If a replacable lamp fails, maintenance is straightforward and can be undertaken by the homeowner, but if the fitting fails where there’s no replaceable parts, then it becomes a more speciaist rip-out-and-replace task; and I’ve seen far too many LED floodlights popping prematurely in my time. It’s good that the legislation is thinking about repairability, sadly the manufacturers will step around it with ease I suspect.

 

This very subject is also available in video form with 25% extra foul language thrown in for free.

 

So long, and thanks for all the fish!

We shouldn’t be lamenting the loss of these lamp technologies. They’ve had their day and better solutions have taken their place. Any old fittings relying on the above can either be updated to the new world order or may themselves be considered to have had their time.

Updating may be a pain. It may require specialist work by an electrician to change over. Costs may be involved, but then the technologies we’re talking about are long past their prime. It’s not unreasonable to now find perhaps a few quid needs investing in updating. Hopefully, you can see you’ve had your value for money from what was put in years ago and paying out to change out now doesn’t feel like you’re being short changed, but making that upgrade should save you maintenance and money in the long term if done properly.

YTB
YTB - XXI